YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian accused Turkey of jeopardizing the normalization of its strained relations with Armenia before flying to Istanbul late Monday for potentially decisive talks with Turkish officials.
The official purpose of Nalbandian’s two-day trip is to participate in the UN-sponsored Alliance of Civilizations summit. He is expected to meet his Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, for further talks aimed at ending long-running tensions between the two neighboring states.
Nalbandian was due to arrive in Istanbul on Sunday night. But the flight was canceled minutes before departure with the Foreign Minister issuing an announcement over his growing concern that Turkey is steering negotiations between the two countries in an untenable direction by hinging relations on a normalization of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Ankara and Yerevan are reportedly close to reaching an agreement on a gradual establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border. Some Turkish newspapers have said the deal could be announced during or shortly after Nalbandian’s upcoming visit.
However, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that this cannot happen before a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan. "As long as the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is not resolved, it is not possible for us to reach a healthy solution concerning Armenia," he told a news conference in London, according to Reuters.
In a written statement issued on Sunday, Nalbandian said that the unresolved Karabakh conflict has not been on the agenda of the ongoing Turkish-Armenian negotiations, implying that Ankara stopped using it as a precondition when it embarked on the unprecedented dialogue with Yerevan last year.
“I believe that the statemen’s, which put forth preconditions for the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations, may be regarded as an attempt to impede the progress reached in the negotiations,” he said in reference to Erdogan’s remarks.
The remarks followed Azerbaijan’s stark warnings to Turkey not to normalize ties with Armenia before a Karabakh settlement. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reportedly cancelled his scheduled participation in the Istanbul forum in protest against such prospect.
In his statement, Nalbandian also said that Ankara must not use its rapprochement with Yerevan for preventing greater international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. “It has been said many times, and I want to stress it again, that the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations can never question the reality of Armenian Genocide,” he said.
Nalbandian’s visit to Turkey coincides with U.S. President Barack Obama’s official visit to the predominantly Muslim NATO country. On his trip, Obama stopped short of using the word “Genocide” but on several occasions, most notably in his speech at the Turkish parliament, he stressed that his views had not changed.